Adorable animals wrapped in a big, red holiday bow. Children crying with joy when they open a box with their new cuddly companion. We see these cliché images displayed everywhere this time of year. Despite what these cheerful depictions suggest, pets should not be presents. Adopting a pet requires a lot of careful thought and unfailing commitment by the owner. Here are a few reasons why you should not give a pet as a present.

Animals Are a Lifelong Commitment

When you get an animal, you’re committing to provide care for them for the rest of their lives. You must accept that your pet will likely grow and change throughout its life, much like humans do. The recipient of a gifted animal may not be prepared to make such a large commitment. All people that will be involved in the care of an animal should be fully aware of the responsibility required and the care they will be expected to give.

When a person or family is surprised with a gifted pet, they often haven’t had time to weigh all the factors of being a pet owner. If the person receiving a pet isn’t fully prepared or dedicated to having it, they can become overwhelmed. Eventually, the cuteness of a puppy or a kitten wears off, and they become growing, adolescent animals, the fun of having a pet can become overshadowed by unexpected burdens. Oftentimes, situations like these lead to gifted animals ending up in shelters because their recipients were not ready or willing to fully care for them.

Pets Are an Investment

In theory, a gifted animal costs nothing for the recipient. This is true, but only for the initial adoption or purchase fees. A pet costs its owner roughly $1,000 to $2,000 during the first year alone. This estimate doesn’t even account for unexpected injuries, illnesses, or training expenses, either. Pets require things like food, toys, treats, bedding, regular vet visits, and vaccinations throughout their lives. Lifespans of house pets can average about 15 years, and many animals live plenty of years beyond that! When you add up the costs of owning an animal for a decade (or more), it’s a big financial responsibility.

Pets not only require an investment of money, but also an investment of your time. Most animals will need some sort of training when they’re young, which requires a significant time commitment from an owner. They also need exercise, attention, and affection throughout their lives to remain healthy, happy, and emotionally secure. They’re living beings, not objects for display. A pet owner must be willing and able interact and spend time with their animals. Time commitments vary between different types of pets. It’s important for an owner to consider their lifestyle and the amount of time they can dedicate to a companion before adding one to their family. Recipients of gifted animals usually do not have the opportunity to consider such factors.

Animals Must Be Compatible with their Humans

It is essential that an animal’s personality, energy-level, and behaviors are compatible with their human’s personality and lifestyle. That’s why at CVHS, and at shelters around the country, we encourage multiple visits between pets and adopters. Just like with humans, it takes a while to get to know an animal fully. That’s why shelter staff members are such great resources! Shelter staff work with the animals every day, and will be more familiar with an animal’s personality than potential adopters. They can help people find the right animal for their lifestyle and personality, ensuring the best chance of success for both human and animal! Recipients of gifted animals don’t have the chance to meet their new pet, nor determine if the animal is the right match for them. A successful companionship can only happen if the potential owner has interacted with the pet itself.

We know what you’re thinking: how can anyone not be compatible with a puppy or kitten?! They’re just adorable fluff-balls! While this is true, puppies and kittens grow up to be cats and dogs with a wide range of personalities. So, it’s still important to consider the kind of animal you’re adopting, even if they’re babies. An animal professional (a.k.a. shelter staff) can help you determine what kind of personality or energy level an animal may have when they’re grown up, based on their supposed breed or expected size. However, no matter how educated an animal professional is, it is very difficult to determine how a young animal will turn out. When adopting a juvenile companion, you must make a commitment accepting that you truly don’t know how your pet’s personality will turn out. Once again, another factor that requires a lot of careful consideration.

They’re cute, cuddly, and nearly irresistible. Although we believe that pets are wonderful additions to our lives because of the love, joy, and companionship they provide, they are not presents. The bottom line is that animals are living beings, not objects. The decision to have a pet must be made by the person or people who are going to care for it, and no one else. There are many serious responsibilities that come with owning a pet, and they cannot be taken lightly.  When the commitment of having an animal is not truly considered, they end up abandoned, forgotten, and eventually in shelter care. Please don’t contribute to the overcrowding of animals shelters this holiday season by giving a pet as a surprise gift.

 If you want to give a pet a home for the holidays, we encourage you to do so! We just ask you to weigh all the options, outcomes, and responsibilities associated with adopting an animal. Don’t surprise your partner, kids, or loved ones with an unexpected pet, no matter how adorable they may be. Talk to your family about the long-term commitment of adopting a pet, and involve them in the entire process. It may ruin the surprise, but it will help you find the perfect companion.

We want to make sure no animal becomes unwanted just because of the novelty of a holiday surprise. That’s why, at CVHS, we won’t adopt out animals as gifts without proper introductions. However, if you get swept up in the holiday spirit, and want to spread good cheer by giving a home to an animal in need, we’d be happy to match you and your family to your new best friend.

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